Behavioral Training

Working in larger collectives is harder than with a partner or alone. Each has their quirks; tolerance and adaptability are skills that dogs, too, need to learn. As much as I'd like universal instructions on handling situation x, that would be misleading advice. Each dog's character is unique, as are their relationships and behavior with each team member. For some, living together isn't an option. Similar to humans. But in work/training, we must come together and learn to coexist.

I postponed the previous trip when I had already harnessed the dogs. Torvi's restlessness had begun, and everyone was very tense. I saw that conflict was inevitable and I wasn't ready to deal with it.

Now, females are not in heat anymore, and we can go out experiencing less tension. Skudra and Torvi aren't friends, and they never will be. Both stand firm in their place in the pack's hierarchy, and more importantly, their status in my eyes. Thus, I play a major role in sorting out the dogs' relationships, and I've only recently started to realise this.

I've harnessed the dogs; no one really listens except Torvi. Tomi jumps up, Skudra pulls towards Torvi, her rival. Meanwhile, Trond tries to win Skudra's sympathy and attention, which is currently focused elsewhere. While I go for the skis, Tomi decides I should come back, leading the others with me. As I turn back to the starting position, heat bursts—Skudra rushes towards Torvi, and the little one answers. Somehow a real fight doesn't start; I manage to create distance between the two, but Skudra has already gotten scratched and looks painted. I assess the dynamics, consider cancelling the trip again, and, as an option, leaving Skudra at home to ease the tension. A safe option, but for how long? I decided to go keep everyone and resolve the situations on the way—that's my task.

Other mushers will agree—the moment the anchor is pulled is one of those special moments that separates all the previous preparation and sets the tone for the journey ahead. The dogs also immediately start doing what they like best. We are on the move again.

Soon, we are out of the village onto the frozen lake, and my anxiety can finally diminish. We start learning teamwork—standing at crossroads for about five minutes until Tomi picks up the desired direction. I don't know if Torvi understands it, but she still relies on Tomi's decisions, which are more like guesses. In the next crossroads, however, I give in. Tomi can't understand the command that would allow us to continue, and after 10 minutes, it visibly disrupts the whole stuck team. Unplanned, we zigzag through the tracks left by snowmobiles, and the path leads back. For a moment, I considered taking a longer route, but mentally, I'm quite exhausted. We head back to Kvikkjokk. On the way back, Torvi reads several commands correctly and seems like she might take over soon

Nothing serious to Skudra, but the sight is dramatic

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